Saturday, September 30, 2023

The US will distribute 500 million antigen tests at home

The Biden Administration invokes Defense laws to mobilize military doctors to reinforce saturated hospitals.

The US will distribute 500 million antigen tests at home

Faced with the sudden rebound in infections by the aggressive omicron variant, the Joe Biden Administration rushed yesterday to announce new prevention measures to combat the advance of what has already become the dominant strain in the United States. The president announced at the White House a new reinforced winter plan that introduces the free distribution by mail of 500 million antigen tests that will be available to the public starting in January. To do this, Biden plans to invoke the Defense Production Act, which will speed up production.

The new program, much more urgent than that of three weeks ago, just days after the new variant was discovered in South Africa, includes the mobilization by the Pentagon of 1,000 military doctors who will be deployed throughout the country in saturated hospitals. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will also work to expand the national medical capacity.

Additionally, the Government will increase the installation of new testing centers, as well as hire hundreds of new federal vaccine providers and create a public access website to request free tests at home.

Biden, much more direct this time, also reproached the anti-vaccines, although without referring to them directly, that their refusal puts the health system at serious risk. The president’s change of tone, who earlier this month sought to unify the nation through his winter plan as an opportunity to “put division behind us,” now reflects a growing loss of patience with deniers.

The Northwest risk

The announcement of the new measures comes as the number of new infections by the ultra contagious variant omicron rages, particularly in the northeastern United States, and amid mounting pressure on the White House to increase the distribution of free tests of antigens to the public.

Ómicron is now responsible for 73% of infections, three out of four of the newly detected cases of coronavirus, an increase that in just one week has reached a rate six times higher than the rate of infections so far. The country reached 800,000 deaths from the pandemic last week.

Despite this, and within days of the celebrations, there is no indication that the president discourages Christmas gatherings, imposes a ban on the unvaccinated on domestic flights, or plans to impose a new round of lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added Spain and Finland to level 4 on the list of countries to which the federal agency recommends avoiding travel. Level 4, the highest risk category, includes territories that represent a high risk of infection of the new variant with an index of more than 500 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants registered in a period of 28 days.


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